Saturday, November 13, 2010

Lansley food policy leads to thoughts of change of Government.

Ironically, the day after I reaffirm the Greens' commitment to non-violence, I read in the Guardian that the food corporations are to be put in charge of food policy.

This makes me extremely angry. What we need is a traffic light symbol on food to signify its effect on health. We need a sugar tax, hypothecated to NHS dentistry, and a fat tax hypothecated to the NHS statin (cholestero-lowering drugs) budget. Instead, we are going to have a food policy that will nudge us to believe that sugar, fat, and additives are neutral or even good for our health.

In a further irony, a motion on a sugar tax was voted down in Green Party Conference a few years back. The Handbrake Tendency was able to persuade Conference that it was a nanny-state solution.

I feel frustrated and angry. I should take my own advice and write to my MP, but I know it is a waste of time. I should get together with others to write, but that would be a waste of time too. We should demonstrate and lobby, but that would be a waste of time.

If we broke windows, scuffled with police and made bonfires, the media would label us food fascists.

So I am reduced to angry powerlessness. Fourteen years have passed since I wrote Bills of Health, which showed that up to a fifth of the NHS budget is spent in treating conditions caused by unemployment, poverty, sub-standard housing and pollution. A further uncountable amount is spent on conditions caused by breakdown of community cohesion.

I have spent 40 years teaching people individually in GP surgeries about good diet. All this education, and that of my colleagues in the health professions, is wrecked by the ConDems plans for corporation-led food policy.

I am angry and powerless. For me, this is an intellectual anger. For others, the anger is existential.
To a student, facing up to huge debts which are displaced from a bloated banking industry, the anger is about his or her life condition.
To a Muslim, looking at what he perceives as a Western crusade of invasion of Muslim countries and an attack on Islam itself, the anger is existential.

Existential anger leads to violence, the violence of desperation that feels it has nothing left to lose.

How can I advise others against violence? Violence is a natural human expression of severe and enduring anger.

Yes as a Green and a Quaker, I am bound to the code of non-violence. This leaves me with two options:
  • withdraw from politics into my own private life.
  • plan an effective political way out of the situation.
The former is illusory. We are not self-existent individuals, but individuals within a social, economic and ecological system.

Therefore we must plan an effective political way out of the system.

I used to think that the ConDem Coalition might run its course, for the full Parliament.
Now I am not so sure.

Instead, the LibDems might rebel at the damage the Coalition's free-market fundamentalist ideology is doing to the country, and more importantly, from their perspective, to their party. Unlikely, but possible.

The alternative is that growing frequency and intensity of demonstrations, especially if coupled with cut-induced disaffection of police and Army, might bring down the Government.

This is an event fraught with danger.

One possible response to a Government car-crash is a right-wing coup. The right-wing tabloids would be up for that.

In order to forestall such a move, we would need a Government-in-waiting, with a clear, agreed, radical strategy for economic, social and political recovery.

This would be centred on meeting the deficit with an end to tax avoidance and evasion, cancellation of dangerous white elephant policies like Trident, and an extended Green New Deal, involving creation of good work in :
  • energy conservation, 
  • renewable energy, 
  • manufacture of energy efficient goods 
  • pollution control technology
  • waste minimisation
  • repair 
  • recycling
  • water management
  • sustainable agriculture
  • forestry and timber use
  • countryside management
  • housing - new building and refurbishment
  • improvements to visual environment
  • public transport
  • education and training
  • counselling, caring and healing
  • community work
  • leisure and tourism 
  • innovation, research and development
This work would be stimulated by converting benefit money into a wage subsidy.

The Alliance platform should also incorporate Corporation Law Reform.

This should be the core of the Alliance policy.

The Alliance would consist of the parties who would have formed the alternative to the LibDem/Conservative Coalition -Greens, Labour, Respect, Scottish and Welsh Nationalists. It might even include a progressive rump of the LibDems...

This would be very difficult, since the Alliance would have more diversity than the ConDem coalition. Without the LibDems, it would be difficult to form a majority on the 2010 election results. However, the numbers could be boosted by the losses faced by an unpopular Government, together with electoral arrangements between the parties. Which is even more difficult, given the intrinsic tribalism of political parties.

An election, with its difficulties, could be avoided by forming an Alliance within the present Parliament, which could take power if control was lost on the streets.

I fully recognise that this is all wishful thinking at the moment. But the logical pathway points in that direction. To summarise:
  • The Coalition with its ideologically-driven cuts and its kow-towing to corporations is going to do huge damage to our nation.
  • Street protests, if they grow, may destabilise the Government.
  • A right-wing coup must be averted in this situation
  • The only alternative is an alliance of progressive parties.
At very least, talks could be opened up between potential partners to see what points of common interest we can agree on. Talks would cost little, would open up pathways for co-operation within Parliament, and might indeed put the fear of God into the ConDems, which could even have an effect of stifling their more nut-case policies like Lansley's food policy.

Is there any take-up on this? I'm not holding my breath. But at least I have said it.

It's amazing where consideration of just one more piece of Tory pro-corporation nonsense will take you.

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